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Brennan Ferris on doorstep of priesthood in Diocese of Wilmington: ‘The parish that gets him will have a good treasure’

Deacon Brennan Ferris is vested by Father Roger DiBuo during his diaconate last year. Dialog photo

Brennan Ferris doesn’t need to think too hard about people who influenced him along the way as he prepares for his priestly ordination May 21 in the Diocese of Wilmington.

He’s grateful for all of them.

“I’m feeling good, happy,” he said several weeks before his ordination.

A lifelong member of St. Elizabeth Parish in Wilmington where he attended school and was an altar server, his family included the parish as a big part of life growing up. His father, Walter, is a permanent deacon and mother, Beth, has been an active leader in the parish.

Still, he has had his share of priests who helped as he discerned his vocation on his way to ordination at Cathedral of St. Peter.

He mentioned Fathers Charles Dillingham, Anthony Giamello, Norman Carroll, Roger DiBuo and Carlos Ochoa among others as priests in the Diocese of Wilmington who stood out along the way. He also singled out Father Fred Miller at Seton Hall University, where he finished college.

The Dialog spoke to some of them about their thoughts on soon-to-be Father Ferris.

Father Norman Carroll

The director of vocations for the diocese seems an obvious choice as a person who influenced his formation, but in this case Ferris has known Father Carroll, also the pastor of St. Elizabeth, since his early teens.

Father Norman P. Carroll
Father Norman Carroll

“I first met him as a student in high school and altar server,” Father Carroll said. He said Ferris first got his calling in his last year of high school. He began college at Mount St. Mary’s University but transferred to college seminary at Seton Hall University in in his second year.

As vocations director, Father Carroll is the priest who will present Ferris to Bishop Koenig as a candidate fit for priesthood.

“That will be a profound moment,” he said. Father Carroll has known his family a long time. Beth Ferris is a St. Elizabeth High School graduate and rode the school bus with Father Carroll’s sister.

“They are a great family,” he said.

“It’s been interesting to watch Brennan go through his formation and mature.”

Father Carroll said Ferris has a wide range of interests. He turns 27 on May 22, the day of his first Mass at St. Elizabeth.

“Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate his personality,” citing sports and music among his interests. “He has some very different pieces to the puzzle that fit together nicely for him. And he is a very prayerful and dedicated young man.”

Father Roger DiBuo

Brennan said he’s grateful for his first parish assignment as a seminarian at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton under the direction of Father DiBuo. Father DiBuo said he’s honored to be considered as having an impact on Ferris.

Father Roger F. DiBuo

“He was my first seminarian to be hosted at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish,” Father DiBuo said. “I was grateful to the diocese and honored for the Seton parish.”

“The parish made him feel welcomed,” said Father DiBuo, who said several parishioners have been invited to the first Mass for Father Ferris on May 22. “To have a seminarian as part of the parish is indeed a blessing.”

Father DiBuo said Ferris was first in a line of several seminarians who spent back-to-back years assigned to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. He’s especially eager for Ferris’s ordination.

“It’s a long journey that formation requires,” Father DiBuo said. “Brennan is a faithful and pastoral man, and I think he will make an excellent priest.”

Father Carlos Ochoa

Not too many priests can talk about the day they got their heads shaved together.

Father Ochoa and Brennan Ferris have that in common.

Father Carlos Ochoa

Ferris was a seminarian in his pastoral year at St. John-Holy Angels in Newark when the pandemic still had a full grip on everyone in spring 2020. Then associate pastor, Father Ochoa beckoned him to join a Facebook Live session and committed him in real-time to a haircut challenge.

Father Ochoa, now the pastor, pledged on Facebook to establish a “Go Fund Me” account to raise money for food for the needy. The priest would shave his head if the total amount reached $3,000, but to kickstart the momentum he recruited Ferris to have the locks removed as soon as the total reached $1,500. It was closing in on $2,000 late on April 23 and Ferris was running his fingers through his hair for the final time for a while.

The tight trim was carried on livestream at the height of the lockdown. Father Ochoa couldn’t contain his laughter in retelling the story, but he believes it shows a strong suit in Ferris.

“He has a wonderful connection to people,” Father Ochoa said. “It’s the joy that he has in embracing people of all ages.”

“He was a good seminarian in his time here. He never said no. He was always conscious in the way he gave his heart to the altar and in his actions. He is full of energy and a very welcoming person.”

Fluent in English and Spanish, Father Ochoa said Ferris endeared himself to so many in the diverse community by being open to try new things.

“He said he always liked salsa, but he was getting a taste of the hotter stuff,” Father Ochoa said in laughter. “That didn’t stop him. I told him he didn’t have to eat it if he didn’t like it.

“People got to know Brennan. They are very comfortable speaking around him. People started inviting him to their house for fiesta.”

“He is a very good listener,” Father Ochoa said. “He will be an attentive priest. The parish that gets him will have a good treasure.”

Father Charles Dillingham

The first pastor Ferris remembers as a little boy is Father Dillingham, the current pastor at St. Mary of the Assumption who was leading St. E’s at the time.

Father Charles C. Dillingham

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing to see him ordained,” Father Dillingham said.

“I’m filled with joy and thanksgiving to God that he called Brennan, and to Brennan for answering that call.”

Father Dillingham was part of the vocations staff when he got to know Brennan better.

“I was able to walk the path with college guys and beyond that with men who have expressed an interest. I was honored and privileged to offer suggestions and advice. He was such a pleasure, always receptive to guidance and direction.”

His bilingual skills will make Ferris even more valuable in the diocese, Father Dillingham said.

“It’s a double blessing. We desperately need him. Our prayers are being answered. I think we’re seeing God’s grace working with us here. We’re getting a priest who has a big heart and lots of energy.”

Father Fred Miller

“He taught me about prayer,” Ferris said. “He’s a phenomenal priest, very holy, just a positive presence in my life. I’m completely indebted to him.”

Father Miller was having a medical procedure when The Dialog reached out to him and was unavailable for an interview.

He offered brief remarks in an email.

“Brennan is a fine young man — with a lot of zeal for the Gospel,” Father Miller said. “He also seems to have a charism for promoting devotion to Our Lady.”